Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dadgummit! Herbicide damage to trees and other non-target plants in the landscape has unfortunately become a common rite of spring. I've noticed severe damage to many trees in Waverly this spring including several oak species, tuliptrees, coffeetrees and redbuds among others.  Although I use no chemicals myself, my own yard trees were hit hard. This makes me very angry!! This is the third year in the last five that damage has been very significant around town. The trees can't take it forever.

The early and warm spring weather certainly played a role as many people were out fighting dandelions and other weeds. And the warm and windy weather no doubt added to the volatilizing and drifting of the chemical. There were many days in April that the smell of 2-4,D hung heavy in the air. Yuck!

The sad thing is that such damage is easily avoided by just being a bit smarter and more careful with weed control:

1. Broadcast spraying of dandelions and other perennial weeds should not be done in the spring, but rather be done in the fall whenever possible.
2. Ester formulations of 2,4-D should not be used as they volatilize more easily and hang on the air. Use amine formulations.
3. Spraying should not happen when its hot or windy.

Finally, I must say this: can't we just learn to live with a few weeds in the landscape? Our desire for golf-course-quality lawns has serious environmental consequences from herbicide damage on non-target plants, to lawn mower/trimmer damage of trees, to overuse of drinking water for irrigation, to significant impacts from polluted and excessive stormwater runoff. Turfgrass is certainly an important and needed element of the landscape, but do we really need to be so anal and shortsighted about it?

And think about this: That air that is punctuated all spring with the putrid smell of 2-4,D is the same are we breathe. What is the long-term damage to our own health?

Dandelions have pretty yellow flowers, kids love to play with them (remember "momma had a baby and its head popped off"?), they can be used in tasty salads and they can be used to make wine. So let's not kill them all.
2-4,D damage to trees in Waverly: black oak, bur oak, tuliptree, redbud and coffeetree

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